Around the world, 1.5 million children die every year from waterborne illness. One in five children worldwide die from diarrhea – more than AIDS, malaria and measles combined, according to UNICEF. And this concept is never more readily apparent than after a natural disaster.
Gaylon White, director of design programs for Eastman Chemical Co., explained to the audience at the 2011 Opportunity Green conference that most deaths from a natural disaster don’t occur from the disaster itself, but rather afterward, as diseases spread. This makes bringing in clean water one of the first major hurdles and priorities to helping victims.
The Hydropack, developed by Eastman Chemical and Hydration Technology Innovations (HTI), is a less expensive and more effective alternative to bottled water. The environmental and financial savings inherent in these flat packs is huge: According to White, one helicopter carrying Hydropacks can bring in enough packs to create the equivalent water brought in by 15 helicopters carrying bottles.
“Every time that we haul water around the world for disaster response, it means that we are being 20 times less efficient or 20 times more expensive that we could be with a Hydropack answer,” said White. He also said that, had the U.S. used Hydropacks in Haiti, it could have saved more than $700,000 every day in water transport and reallocated those funds to other relief measures.
“It’s important that we recognize the consequences of doing nothing. Saving money can mean saving more lives,” said White.
So what is the Hydropack, exactly?
The Hydropack is, essentially, a pouch that can create clean, drinkable water from absolutely any source – from Kenyan flood water to L.A. sewer water. After dropping the pack into a local water source, it works by forward osmosis, which is the same process by which trees draw water up their root system.
Using a semi-permeable membrane, the pack brings in water and blocks viruses, bacteria and heavy metals. It also contains calories, carbohydrates and a bit of flavor that essentially makes it taste like a sports drink.
Even though the Hydropack is a currently a single-use vehicle for creating drinkable water, the savings in fuel and transportation are significant. And beyond this, providing a reliable source of water means that one more essential element to life is taken care of for the people suffering in extreme conditions. This allows for other issues to be addressed, for recovery to begin, and for a significant stressor on parents to be relieved.
“The mothers in Namibia want the same things for their children as the mother’s here in Los Angeles […] what mother’s anywhere want for their children,” said White.
Editor’s Note: Earth911 received complimentary passes to attend the 2011 Opportunity Green conference, where it was an official Media Partner